Oh, the Places You’ll leogeo

February 27, 2009

Often,  AxisPortals’ web meanderings lead to interesting, educational, and edifying places.  The leogeo site is definitely one of those places.  Some of the many things to love about it:

  1. It is an incredibly beautiful site.  Indeed, it’s a whole gallery of lovely and intriguing things.  Need to persuade someone that there is such a thing as digital art?  Lead that person here. 
  2. It’s mesmerizing and involving.  It’s quite impossible, for instance, to stop clicking on timebeat.  Yes, it’s a clock, but such a clock!  Plus, we aren’t generally invited to handle the clockworks, as it were, or to listen to their movement quite so fully, so there’s something very satisfying about it.  It’s a bit haunting, that heart beating away our all too fleeting seconds, but the rhythm is meditative and profoundly relaxing as well. 
  3. It’s definitely not text driven.  There is some text, of course, but it sure doesn’t limit itself to behaving in traditional ways.  Plus, it never attempts to explain itself.
  4. It’s a wonderful example of how deeply the ways of the web have influenced our literacy.  Perhaps as little as ten years ago, quite a lot of folks wouldn’t have been able to make heads or tails of this space, but now almost all of us are comfortable enough with mouse and screen to know when and where to click.  So, we can figure out the navigation, and we can interact with the art installations in the gallery with no textual prompting.    Quite a far cry from the “click here” and “click me” days of hypertext, isn’t it?  
  5. It’s a wonderful reminder of one of the little truths of life that AxisPortals holds most dear:  exploration leads to learning.

AxisPortals Aphorism (with thanks to  leogeo):  Most things really are “best viewed with curiosity” 


Social Media Dependence?

February 20, 2009

MediaShift’s Mark Glaser warns of the dangers of  overdependence on social networking tools like Twitter and Facebook.

It hadn’t occured to AxisPortals to worry that anyone might consider making any social networking site the one and only online home of his or her business entity or professional persona.  Although Glaser’s overall point that these technologies are still emerging is well taken, his dire warnings seem like overkill.  Some relatively small handful of social networking zealots might be putting all of their marketing eggs into that one growing but still emerging and shifting basket, but for the most part it  seems fairly obvious that the strength of these sites lies in their ability to extend and enrich online presence, not to provide the whole of it.  Like any networking or marketing strategy, social networking should be strategically implemented, and subject to regular review and analysis.  What works always trumps what’s fashionable, and a multi-faceted approach is always wise.

Furthermore, it’s important to remember that social networking is as old as humanity. People will always seek out connection.  The golf outing is a social networking tool.  So is the business lunch.  Now, we have ways to extend our connections and relationships online, but no matter what happens to the specific services we have now, the human propensity for connection isn’t going anywhere, so it’s likely that even though social networking online will continue to evolve in interesting new directions, it’s beyond unlikely that it will ever disappear entirely.  The services and their details will change, but the basic fact of forming networks won’t.

AxisPortals Aphorism:  Due caution, yes; unreasonable fear, no.

AxisPortals Aphorism Two (with apologies to E.M. Forster):  Only connect . . .but of course not solely on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.

Social Networking Fatigue

February 18, 2009

For well over a year now, social networking fatigue  has been in the news, and it’s not hard to see why.  After all, attempting to participate fully in multiple social networks–LinkedIn, Twitter, Plurk, Facebook, Spoke, and on and on–would get tiring.  Add to that efforts to keep a blog, a podcast, and a website going, and it quickly becomes easy to see why some have opined that social networking fatigue is the next big hurdle facing these sites and services.

Meanwhile, AxisPortals has been, it seems, receiving more social networking invitations than ever.  Well over a year after some of the earliest advocates of social networking started complaining of burnout, it seems that more and more professional adults are discovering these sites for the very first time, and just beginning to explore their business potential.  How can relative newcomers to the social networking scene avoid fatigue?

Some suggestions:

  1. Explore First:  Before committing yourself fully to any social network, try playing around with several versions to see which of them best suits your style and your purpose.  Keep in mind that what you may have heard about a given site is no substitute for experience, and that it can take some time to grow familiar with the functions and local expectations of that particular space.  AxisPortals suggests using a screen name as you explore, and asking colleagues who are familiar with that space to add you to their friend lists so that you can get the best the possible feel for its possibilities.  If you explore first, then when it comes time to pare down your social networking profiles, you’ll be making an informed decision.

  2. Just Say No:   Many sites and services offer new members the option of issuing invitations to everyone in their address books.  Almost always, it is possible to turn off this option, and it’s a good idea to do so.  Netiquette dictates that it’s in poor form to abuse your contact list that way.  Meanwhile, if you are on the receiving end of of a mass invitation, please understand that it is not only okay to say no, but often wise to do so.  If you don’t really know the one who is extending the invitation (and AxisPortals assumes that almost all of us have some fairly distant contacts in our address books), then you needn’t feel even a twinge of regret over simply deleting these things from your inbox.  “Just say no,” after all, is one of those bits of advice that tends to deserve high ranking on most any list of suggestions for avoiding burnout.

  3. Clarify Your Purpose and Your Audience:   Exactly what do you want to accomplish with your social networking activities?  If your goal is to stay connected to friends and family, and you intend to make your interactions fairly casual, then it may be that a Facebook account is perfectly suited to your needs.  If you are looking mostly for professional connection, then concentrating your efforts on LinkedIn or Spoke might make the best sense.  If your business demands that you be a leading source of breaking news in your area of specialty, then you might find that some combination of Twittering and blogging works best for you.  On the other hand, do keep an open mind.  You may think of Facebook, for instance, as strictly youth oriented and not at all relevant to the business world, but the over 30 population is actually the most rapidly growing demographic  on the site.   As usage increases across all age groups, corporate presence on social networking sites expands in kind.  It seems natural for youth oriented Pepsi to have both a Facebook and a MySpace presence, for instance, but you’ll also find H&R Block and Hewlett-Packard on Facebook.  Local businesses, too, have found that establishing social networking profiles can be an effective marketing strategy.  So, explore a variety of sites, and know what you want to accomplish, but don’t automatically rule any site out. 

  4. Set Boundaries:  AxisPortals suspects that boundary blur is one of the leading causes of social networking fatigue.  Colleagues who are college professors, for instance, often note that they aren’t exactly sure how to approach friendship  requests from students.  Since the way that we interact with friends and family members is often quite different than the way we interact with our professional peers–or with  students, teachers,  employers, and employees–it makes sense to set some clear boundaries, and to guard them.  No matter which of the sites you utlimately choose to make your social networking home, you might consider setting up one profile for your business or your professional persona, and a separate profile for your personal interactions.  That way, you never have to worry that the casual tone and the personal details that are right in one setting will bleed uncomfortably into settings where they aren’t as appropriate.  You might also spend some time thinking about how you want to address your privacy settings.  It may be best for your personal details to be available only to close friends and family members, but for your business information to be readily available to all.  Some online marketing experts would disagree with this approach, but AxisPortals is going with common sense and personal experience, here:  I do want to hear which conferences my professional peers are attending,  what kinds of projects they’re working on , and which books are influencing them at the moment, but really don’t care to know what they had for lunch, much less how much they’ve had to drink.  From a rhetorical standpoint, it makes sense not to dilute your professional voice that way.

  5. Have Realistic Expectations:  Social networking is a rapidly evolving phenomenon.  Setting up a LinkedIn profile or establishing a Facebook page won’t turn you into an instant millionaire, and a new blogging or microblogging account will take some time to establish in an already crowded marketplace.  So, do keep your expectations realistic, and do understand that the time you devote to social networking is a long term investment.  Even if it doesn’t pay off in immediate profit increases, it will pay off in deeper and subtler ways for a long time.  Actively participating in the Web 2.0 revolution puts you in the enviable position of being able to make informed decisions about the role of technology in your personal and professional lives.  An added bonus: social networking humor will make a whole lot more sense to you.

AxisPortals Aphorism:  Don’t burnout, but do begin.


Health 2.0

February 9, 2009

The February issue of Healthcare Informatics surveys the top tech trends for 2009.  Take particular note of the “Health 2.0” sidebar in the patient portals section:

“[H]ealthcare companies are looking at how other Web technologies–such as blogs, Wikis, and social networking sites–can play a role in patient interactions . . .Web-savvy healthcare organizations are studying ways to adopt technology to interact with patients to self-manage, and to interact with one another in social networking situations . . .’This is about being inclusive, and allowing people and providers to collaborate in new ways.'”

This is the sort of observation that tends to make AxisPortals very happy, because it promotes general business understanding that Web 2.0 technologies and approaches aren’t strictly social and aren’t just for kids (more on that in my next post), but are fundamentally part of the way we live now, and must therefore be fundamentally part of how we concieve of business now, as well.

Web 2.0 Central Concepts

Web 2.0 Central Concepts

AxisPortals Aphorism: Web 2.0 is good for healthcare, and it’s good for the health of every business.

Why a Website is Never Done

February 7, 2009


Web Publication vs. Print Publication: Click for larger image.

A colleague who has  been working very hard on guiding the development of a new website for his company recently mentioned to AxisPortals that he can’t wait for the project to be finished, once and for all.

AxisPortals appreciates, applauds, and at every opportunity wholly encourages administrative involvement in crafting and maintaining an effective web presence.  Without administrative support and enthusiasm, after all, the project quickly withers:  content grows stale, styles and features get outdated, and opportunities for growth and improvement are missed. 

On the other hand, this conversation reminded AxisPortals of one of the essential truths about crafting a web identity:  this is not a task that can be checked off on a list.  You can never really be done developing your online presence, which includes not only your website but all of your related  material, connections, and relationships.  Web presence does and should evolve right along with you and your company. 

Crafting a brand new, totally overhauled web site is of course a huge job, and so in some sense it’s perfectly natural and understandable to look eagerly forward to the day when that site is finally launched.  In many respects, though, the day of a website’s launch is like the day a student graduates:  it marks the end of one process, but the beginning of another.  In the case of a website, launch day is day one of what should be the ongoing process of updating, refreshing, tracking use, interacting with users, and so forth. 

Perhaps this little fact of web life should go without saying, but too often businesses approach a website in the same way that they might approach a print publication.  On the day that a print piece is published, the process of composing it is over, and the process of distributing it begins.  Not so with a website or any sort of web presence.  Online, we are always composing our presence.  A website is never done being written.  Just so with a blog or a microblog.  Instead, these continue to emerge over time, and are continuously in the process of being composed.

AxisPortals Aphorism One :  Digital composition is not equivalent to print composition.  Online, the process of composing is continuous. 

AxisPortals Aphorism Two:  A website is never done.